Electric Bikes are on the rise – How do they work?

In Cycling, Tech / Gear

Do you love the idea of cycling, but struggle to fit it into your life? Or perhaps the thought of those steep hills puts you off completely. Cycling is a great way to combine your commute or travel with exercise, but, for some, the distance is simply too far to tackle every day. With the arrival of the electric bike, though, anything is now possible...

Electronic Bikes are on the riseE-bikes, or pedelecs, as they are often known, have been hugely popular in Holland, Germany, Belgium and France for many years. In fact, 30% of all Dutch bike sales in 2017 were e-bikes. The UK is only just embracing the trend, although government stats show that sales are rising 10% year-on-year in the UK. 

What are e-bikes?

But what is an e-bike? It’s a normal bike but with an electric assistant that you can choose to use, for instance when going uphill or to get some speed away at traffic lights; the electric motor kicks in as you pedal up to 15 miles per hour.

Cycling enthusiasts around the world are using e-bikes to help them cycle further, harder and along more challenging routes – it certainly doesn’t ease off the exercise element if you don’t want it to.  However, if you want to use your bike to travel to work, but don’t want to turn up hot and sweaty, it is an ideal piece of kit as you just use the electric assistant more than you would if you were using the bike purely for exercise. 

electric bike on country lane

Pedal assist Vs. Full Electric

There are two types of e-bikes – pedal assist (pedelec) and full electric ‘twist and go throttle’ bikes.  Most of the electric bikes you see for sale in the UK and Europe are the pedal-assist variety, which boost your own pedalling but don’t move forward without it. There are some throttle-controlled e-bikes in the UK but the official advice from the UK’s Bicycle Association is to steer clear. This is a grey area and it is expected that these might be put under a different transportation category, possibly requiring taxing and licences, although this is all uncertain at the moment.

The Moto Morini E-bike range includes the E-bike Urban: an assisted pedal bike with a urban aestheticItalian brand Moto Morini E-bike range includes the E-bike Urban: an assisted pedal bike with an urban aesthetic

Pedal-assisted e-bikes sense how much power you are applying to the pedals and then boosts it; put simply, it multiplies your own strength. Many of these pedelecs have settings that allow you to control the level of assistance that it provides you with – it slightly depends on the level of sophistication of the bike, and as ever, this comes with the price you pay.

The environmental, economic alternative

Nicki Langly-Smith – Proviz founders Anthony and Rupert’s mum – is a keen electric bike user and says “there are so many occasions that I used to take my car, where I now use my e-bike; I love being outdoors, and travelling on the e-bike makes everywhere that much more accessible without using a car; I expect I have reduced my monthly petrol use by about 30% since I have had my e-bike, especially in the dryer months.”

Saving money and protecting the environment are two major benefits of e-bikes: an e-bike will cost you approximately 10p to charge and take you roughly 56 kilometres, which is the equivalent of 1,500-2,000 miles per gallon. Of course, you also save money on taxes, licences, parking costs or fines – just you, your bike and off you go, as long as you are over the age of 14.

Using an electric bike definitely eases the strain when carrying/towing a heavy load – such as children; it is such a magical way for kids to start the day, getting a ride to school on the back of a bike, but often it is not practical. E-bikes make this much more of a viable option.  The E-Bikeshop has a fantastic range, not least its Cargo E-bike.

The Tern GSD Cargo Bosch Electric BikeThe Tern GSD Cargo Bosch Electric Bike

Tern GSD Cargo Bosch Electric BikeDue to the increased popularity of e-bikes, there are now a lot to choose from. The latest designs have focused on making the bike look normal and  everyone is talking about the Cube Agree hybrid C:62 SLT Disc (below) which has all the assets of a super road bike, with a removable electric motor – use it, don’t use it, your choice. Of course, this comes with the appropriate price tag of about £7,000. 

CUBE AGREE HYBRID C:62 SLT DISC BLACK EDITION 2018Cube agree hybrid C:62 slt disc black edition 2018

Some e-considerations…

If you are using an e-bike as a commuting vehicle, then you’ll probably want something a little less pricey and it’s worth thinking about how far you are travelling each day – some bikes go up to 30 miles on their battery power, others 70 miles. You will also need to look into the battery charging time and obviously consider where and how you are going to charge your bike – if you live somewhere where you can’t get the whole bike near a power source, then you will need a bike with a removable battery.

Even Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy seems to be a convert. Hoy is an ambassador for Evans Cycles and last year the bike company recreated the original Hovis ‘Boy on a Bike’ advert 44 years after it first aired but this time the ‘boy’ – Carl Barlow, the original star and now a 58-year-old retired firefighter – makes it to the top of the hill thanks to an electric bike. Hoy was quoted as part of the campaign as saying: “E-bikes are great for people to commute on over distances that they might not be able to manage without an electric motor. In short, they are a nice combination of using your own human power, your own effort and having a bit of assistance too. I think once you’ve ridden an e-bike, you completely get it.”

And if an Olympic cyclist says they’re alright, then who are we to argue?